Public Safety and the Glue That Backs the Blue

By Stephen Owsinski

One of the reasons I went into law enforcement stemmed from my childhood, watching NYPD cops and FDNY firefighters and all manner of folks standing behind them, in support, proud of do-gooders in their midst.

Many years later, I would feel that same way, except I was in a blue uniform working alongside some of the most fabulously courageous people with whom I had the privilege to serve citizens, many of the latter underscoring my Why, the very reason for my life as a LEO.

Conversely, every law enforcement officer has heard the noise created by self-centered folks who emotively bark about cops impeding their life-flow: Why’d you stop me? Now I am late! I want your name and badge number. You’re gonna hear from my lawyer! Blah blah blah…

By and large, though, there are more among our population who either tacitly or otherwise embrace the police institution and those who bravely safeguard the public.

Pinellas County Deputy Michael Magli evidenced this when he confronted a fleeing drunkard by deploying stop sticks. It went awry when the suspect plowed into him, killing him on scene on February 17, 2021.

The Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association immediately coordinated a campaign to sell t-shirts honoring Deputy Magli, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Magli family. Today, the “Miles for Magli” campaign followed suit, seeking Magli t-shirt wearers to photograph themselves wearing the fallen LEO t-shirt wherever they may be, assembling a collage illustrating the spread of police heroism and law enforcement support.

(Photo courtesy of the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association.)

Similarly, an organization called BadgeWives stepped up and held a fundraiser to assist the Magli family with finances. Local photogs volunteered their skills and instrumentation to photograph LEO families, an event NPA covered.

In my police career, the few whiners who felt they could do no wrong in life and threatened “I’ll have your badge!” were a needlessly loud yet (thankfully) little lot—it is really a dimension of doing the police job. Conversely, the gratitude shown by either a passing thumbs up or a “Thank you” or a physical salute or a batch of home-baked cookies dropped off at Police HQ were among many varying means by which folks expressed gratitude.

One of the most tangible ways citizens show support for their cops is during the most grievous public safety events: police funerals for brave hearts fallen in the line of duty.

My area had yet another mass gathering recently for a fallen Tampa police officer who boldly gave his life so that others may live. That “ultimate sacrifice” dimension played out in real-time, and the public came out to line the streets and pay respects. Thin Blue Line flags flapped next to American flags. Posters of gratitude and sorrow for the ultimate loss were propped by adults taking time out of their day to hold up a hurting police family and the community.

In kind, children were present and offering their respects via hand-made signs held by tiny hands and young brains telegraphing a hybrid of sadness/confusion.

(Photos courtesy of Teresa Kondek, widow of fallen Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles Kondek.)

Hugely epitomizing community support for LEOs enduring dire straits, the above imagery was taken by a friend of mine: Teresa Kondek is the widow of fallen Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles Kondek who was killed in the line of duty on December 21, 2014.

As Mrs. Kondek wrote: “I had the opportunity to show these kiddos the honor and respect shown to those who sacrifice their life in the line of duty. They had a lot of questions about Officer Madsen and were amazed at all the different agencies that passed.

“Then, I turn to see a little guy wearing Charlie’s shirt as he stood to watch as well!”

A deeply true testament to the blue glue that binds us all together. Especially when strife is thrust upon us and any semblance of peaceful existence is robbed, police wives who have been in the exact circumstance emotionally paralyzing and indelibly altering the lives of law enforcement loved ones know best the trials and tribulations of duty gone disastrously awry. Mrs. Kondek’s website stems from the monstrous miscreants out there and the men and women in blue who step forward and do their darndest to preserve everyone’s sanctity. If not already, I suspect Mrs. Madsen and Mrs. Kondek will become sisters to one another, with a unique comprehension no one should be made to understand, at a steep price only redeemable in memory. This is poignantly depicted in Mrs. Kondek’s chronology of her husband’s LE career and her police family presenting for all family birthdays, proms, graduations, driver license exams, you name it…all in Officer Kondek’s stead.

As Mrs. Kondek has experienced then and now, Mrs. Madsen and her three children will realize the pillars of blue support brought about by Officer Madsen’s tragic line-of-duty death.

(Tampa bridge pillars illuminated in blue to honor a fallen policeman. Photo courtesy of Tammie Bishop, Tampa Police Department.)

Many downtown Tampa skyscrapers illuminated in blue the night of Master Police Officer Madsen’s death; that display continues nightly.

In under two days after his death, the “Officer Jesse Madsen Family Benefit Food Truck Rally” was held in downtown Tampa, nearby police HQ, all proceeds benefiting Madsen’s loved ones.

Tampa Bay area bridges followed suit, casting beautiful blue hues on the swirling waters below, cars slowing (sublime police presence) to take it all in.

(Photo courtesy of Tammie Bishop, Tampa Police Department communications officer who also did the Final Radio Call at Officer Madsen’s funeral.)

The church service comprising the Word of God and words from Madsen’s squad-mates and police wife were absolutely poignant and wholesomely revealing of a man who lived life to serve others.

Like many honoring fallen heroes, the police funeral procession for Madsen was quite a string and an indelible sight to behold—a roadside glimpse was provided by Incident Response.

Traversing to the Florida National Cemetery located several counties north of Tampa, the procession was honored by members of the public who were already camped out to pay respects.

Atop local road and interstate overpasses were other public safety agencies whose police and fire personnel stood outside emergency vehicles, lights flashing, hands saluting…for the entire duration of the hundreds of cars in the funeral procession journeying under the blazing sun.

Amid the emergency vehicles were a few Tampa Fire Rescue units which, in stark contrast to the kowtow chiefs and politicians who caved and removed anything thin blue line related from their apparatus, proudly displayed the iconic symbol heralding law enforcement’s role in safeguarding the public from evil-doers.

(Photo courtesy of Tampa Fire Rescue.)

Watching live, typical funeral etiquette and laws were clearly exercised; tons of passing motorists in cars, RVs, dump trucks, semis, school busses, and motorcycles were respectfully peeled off onto the shoulder—there were over 100 police motorcycles leading, flanking, and buttoning-up the tail end, several of which ensured etiquette was exercised and the route was readied for safe passage.

Something you likely will not see in any Democrat-driven anti-cop locale, the Tampa Police Department maintains an honor for its fallen by painting their fallen officers’ names and EOW (end of watch) dates on the police helo’s tail:

(Photo courtesy of Tammie Bishop, Tampa Police Department communications officer.)

That same police chopper hovered over the hearse for the entire duration of not only the church service but also until the funeral procession reached its cemetery destination.

Even though the four-county trip saw several tow truck operators dotting the route, each displaying a foisted Thin Blue Line flag, once at the cemetery there was a massive wrecker provided by a Tampa Bay area tow service commonly used by all law enforcement agencies when impounds are necessary.

Stepp’s Towing has been an ardent supporter of the police and their roles in society for decades, and they emplaced their big rig right at the entrance of the cemetery, its hoisted Thin Blue Line flag the size of a three- or four-story building, sort of waving/saluting Officer Madsen’s arrival, his entourage of loved ones, cohorts, and police supporters trailing the hearse’s wake.

Since Officer Madsen served as a United States Marine (and a subsequent stint as a U.S. Army reserve while also employed as a cop), his burial site is in a military cemetery. In typical honor of fallen police officers (and the inherent message in this material), a faction from the Veterans Affairs Police Department were on scene to pay respects to not only a hugely decorated cop but also a military man whose life was replete with service to nation and community.

(Photo courtesy of Big Blue Line Flag.)

The flag depicted in the above photo is supplied by an outfit honoring fallen cops. Big Blue Line Flag and their team travel the nation to attend police funerals and hoist what is billed as the nation’s largest Thin Blue Line flag, measuring 20’X38’. They’ve been pulling off flag feats for the fallen, thanks to funding and/or heavy equipment use provided by area businesses wherever police heroes are being memorialized, the latest being Officer Madsen’s funeral in Bushnell, Florida.

Later in the night, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) law enforcement division honored Madsen (whose wife is also a cop), the Madsen family, the law enforcement community, and citizens who respectfully stood in honor of one of their courageous LEOs…with an FWC-coordinated flotilla of law enforcement boats.

(Photo courtesy of the Tampa Police Department.)

Slowly caravanning up and down the Hillsborough River running through downtown Tampa, a cadre of marine unit police officers piloted 16 boats with blue lights flashing…adding to the blue hue cast by the Laurel Street Bridge which also exhibited back-the-blue brilliance. Here is a brief video from a local news station reporting the details involved in this water-borne idea to honor its fallen cops:

I watched the police boat flotilla online; many great aerial views were punctuated by citizens enjoying Riverwalk settings flocking to the water’s edge railings to take in the spectacle.     

Per the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, one among many LE agencies which participated in the water-borne tribute, deputies with the marine unit honored “MPO Jesse Madsen of Tampa Police, Sgt. Brian LaVigne of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and Deputy Michael Magli of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office for their service and sacrifice to their communities. Sixteen [police] vessels, each representing a year of service for MPO Madsen at TPD, traveled along the Riverwalk in Downtown Tampa with their blue lights illuminated to pay tribute. The return trip was led by three vessels, each representing a Tampa Bay Area law enforcement officer lost this year.”

Staying with the water theme, a Tampa Bay area pool builder launched a police-supporting initiative through which every pool-construction project’s proceeds will automatically direct funds to the families of the fallen. Moreover, the same pool company is offering bonus points for blue lights:

“We encourage our community to support and donate to these families as well. If you have a pool, turn the lights on blue in support of these officers and post in the comments! The [blue-lit] pool posted with the most likes, will get one month of free pool service from Edge Pools.”

Such a contrast with regard to police defunders and law enforcement abolitionists, eh? Thankfully, even regions where police are oppressed and facing neuter, critical-thinking officials seated in mission critical cities are sounding off on behalf of cops.

Per pro-police Phoenix, Arizona Councilman Sal DiCiccio: “My message to the defund the Police: You are going to be crushed. Stop your insane extremist views. Nine months ago I promised I would work to get MORE money for police and higher pay. The budget presented today has tens of millions MORE for police and HIGHER pay for police. We love our police and respect the hard work they do every day.”

I believe everyone can embrace an elected official for not only endearing law enforcement officers but also properly funding them for success—after all, citizens reap the dividends ensured by crime-fighters.

In the same vein as Mr. DiCiccio, only on a state level, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) publicized his intent to honor first responders during a press conference on Tuesday. Addressing how Florida intends to use the COVID stimulus funds, the first point he hit upon telegraphed his support for cops and firefighters, saying, “We know the pandemic put an awful lot of strain on first responders. We believe we should recognize their sacrifice.”

Governor DeSantis plans to grant an additional $1000. in each first responder’s stimulus check. While Democrat-laden governments are sharpening the hatchets and slashing police budgets and whittling away the psyches of cops, influencing the exodus to pro-police locales (or causing some LEOs to leave the crime-fighting business altogether), Gov. DeSantis has his arms extended wide for public safety pros.

He further explained to the constituency: “I’m proposing a one-time, $1000 bonus payment to all first responders, firefighters, sworn law enforcement and EMTs, which totals about $208.4 million dollars.”

How’s that for a hefty hug?

I recently wrote about the exodus of cops from anti-police locales benefitting pro-police states, meant to sound the horns for all LEOs who are undeniably oppressed in their respective liberal-run jurisdictions.

Back-up by cops on- or off-duty (or even retired ones) never ceases, and the intent of revealing open-arms locales for LEOs looking to enhance their existence, put police experience/skills to great use, and enrich their family’s quality of life is part of backing the blue and the ties that bind.

I knew it from the get-go, from when I were a wondrous kid watching NYPD blues maintaining law and order on the streets of Brooklyn: Blue love runs deep, and we just covered one nugget attesting that fact.

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